MUSH Survival Guide: Statting
Chapter 1: Bare Bones Minimum- wherein MUSHing is talked about in comparison to other mediums, and clients are listed.
Chapter 2: How Do I Shot MUSH?- wherein basic mechanics of communication are described.
Chapter 3: Can I Haz Character Nao?- Wherein you find how to be a good guest, survive the horrors(?) of the application process, and how to construct a well-rounded character for MUSHing purposes.
Chapter 4: Everyone was Kung-Fu Fighting with Lovebeams???- You're here!
Chapter 5: Wait, What's This Thing You Call 'Roleplay'?- Where we discuss the ins and outs of obtaining roleplay and the tricks behind scene-planning.
Everyone was Kung-Fu Fighting with Lovebeams???
Battle Fantasia is one of a long tradition of MU* -- MUSHes, also MUCKs, MOO and so forth -- that use a combat system. The combat system has two jobs:
1) To adjudicate combat roleplay, such that we aren't standing around playing cops and robbers and complaining about who falls over when you shout BANG, and
2) To flavor combat roleplay, to help provide a little bit of guidance to poses so people can spice things up a bit with specific outcomes.
However, it is strictly optional: if everyone in the room would like to use the far older tradition of consent-based combat roleplay (for a little guidance about that, see Chapter 5), that is perfectly fine.
Because the combat system is complex, we understand that it's a bit intimidating; there is distinctly a learning curve, and we apologize for that. This complexity was born from a desire to incorporate as much magical girl flavor as possible, and occasionally that turned out to be more than was entirely reasonable.
However, we have a message for everyone:
The very first thing to point out is that the staff is happy to do your stats for you, as the application indicates; all we ask for is a qualitative description of one's combat forms (most people only have one, eg, 'Sailor Mercury') and each form's attacks. We ask for attack names because they're really hard to dream up and we have a lot of work on our plate, so for that creativity, the ball's in your court; but as long as you give us names, and a sense of what they do ('Shabon Spray: A fog bank that confuses my enemies while allowing my allies to safely get into position for an effective attack'), we can take the rest from there.
The second thing to point out is that these feelings you may be experiencing are normal. When we tested the combat system, we didn't just draw from a bunch of people addicted to rolling dice; we recruited across the spectrum, because we wanted a game that would be fun for everyone. We had people who loved csys, yes, but also people who hated csys, or feared csys.
And essentially everyone, across that spectrum, gave us the same feedback:
They were really intimidated by the system, but they gave it a chance, and by the time they had made a character (with some help and discussion, which we are happy to give you individually), and done a couple of mock combats, they were having a ton of fun. The transcendent point from 'a ton of fun' to 'joyous enthusiasm' tended to come after they got comfortable enough with the +freeattack/set command that they were using Free Attacks early and often. So, that is the usual experience, and we hope it will be yours. If it isn't, if you feel like you're still floundering, you have an army of people all too happy to give you help and advice, beginning with the staff. So don't ever hesitate to ask, in the OOC Room, or on the +Ask-Staff channel (accessible with +a blah, to say blah upon a channel that the staff are always listening to), even -- especially -- in the middle of a scene. People will be happy to help you.
But the very first thing you can do is start reading the files.
The Book of Darkness
However, there are a lot of files; it's virtually manual-length. Eventually you may want to take the time to read everything -- there's a lot of nuance revealed within -- but here's a guide to an important set.
Combat System is the top of the wiki/+helpfile tree; it has an overview which is as good a place to start as any. It links to the major branches of the combat system tree (especially relevant to you, of course, is Chargen; also extremely useful for understanding character building is a solid grasp on the Reactions), but other handy references include:
- Combat System: Index - The master table of contents, and
- Combat System: Glossary - The glossary, which is useful to refer to as you read other pages.
- Chargen Examples - this is a page with full character statting examples, start to finish, that is easiest to understand after you've done a bit of reading, but also gives some clear sense of the extended process of statting a character. It is also highly recommended reading.
Okay, I've sealed the Book, what else?
Assuming that you've at least browsed the Chargen section of the csys wiki, and perhaps referred to the Application itself which has some forms for you to fill out, you should have a sense of things you need to fill in. Instead of repeating things said elsewhere in great detail, here is some general advice about statting and making attacks that you won't find anywhere else:
- If you're apping a brand new magical girl at the beginning of her career, start at Master Rank C. Getting to spend experience points nigh-continuously is the privilege and pleasure of starting at the beginning (as is getting a dramatic and awesome power-up to Master Rank B on-camera), as opposed to the long plateau of being a veteran in Master Rank B, and we can't recommend it enough. For more information, please see: Starting Ranks
- Character points are not linear. Someone with 360 CP is not twice as powerful, or even close, than someone with 180 CP. So please don't worry about that.
- If you do ask for antagonist starting rank consideration, please actually antagonize. If we find out that you're using your extra powers for excessive good (some team-ups are inevitable, and acceptable, but not continuously or regularly), we'll be pretty disappointed. We don't mind bad guys becoming good guys -- we encourage it! But if A-ranked antagonists redeem faster than the rest of their cast can catch up with them, they'll likely drop in rank to match the rest of their peers. For more information, please see: Antagonist Starting Ranks
- What you really want to spend your Master Trait points on are Abilities that will be useful in all your forms, that really are the measure of what is so deeply, intrinsically a part of your character that they're with them, always. Note that when you rank up (or otherwise realize something you like better), you can change how you're spending your Master Trait points; they aren't a permanent decision, either. After all, a character's fundamentals can evolve over time!
- It doesn't really matter how you split your Character Points between a given form's Stats, Henshin Abilities, and extra Special/Finisher Attack Slots (which are the only three places they can go). You will be awesome and fun to play no matter what; one of our design goals was to be able to essentially randomly generate character sheets by rolling on tables and have them be effective. We may not have gotten quite that balanced, but we're awfully close, so feel free to do what you want to do. Do what sounds fun. Do what feels like your character. It will work out (and if it doesn't, we'll help you find something that does).
- Attack slots at 5 CP apiece, even though you won't be using every attack every combat, don't start suffering diminishing returns from the utility of versatility for like six or seven slots; buying at least a couple is a good idea. There are lots of ways to interpret the CP split, and none of them are wrong. "Lots of stats, few abilities" can represent someone with a lot of raw potential and not much training. It could also represent someone who is something of a generalist, rather than a specialist in magical or physical or ranged or melee attacks, or in a specific reaction.
- Speaking of specific reactions, it's really a wise idea to invest in your defenses. Counter is not designed for constant use; as in magical girl shows, it might show up once or twice a fight, be dramatic (whether or not it works), and that's it. You will mostly either be Dodging or Bracing or both, and you will want to build accordingly, at least to some degree. Offensive minmaxing isn't impossible, but it's definitely not any sort of advantage; because of the nature of Finishing Attacks, having a huge Might at the expense of other things is just a moderately different playstyle (and your tactics will have to adapt accordingly). All magical girls are generally offensive specialists in flavor, it's just what the genre is; the csys, therefore, starts from there, creates a huge range of specialties and styles assuming that flavor by default, and additional overinvestment in pure offense is often just that: overinvestment. Magical girls have to handle their defenses, too. For more information, please see: Reactions
- Remember that the 0-100 stat range is an essentially cosmic scale, flavorfully speaking. 30s and 40s are already epic in scope and very effective in the combat system. We did it that way because our system was designed from the beginning for growth; don't worry about starting at the top. We'll all get there together, and it will be the journey, not the destination, that matters. For more information, please see: Stats Ranges
- When it comes to specializing in attacks through Abilities, this is something that depends a lot on what your attacks will be. To the extent that it's possible, you may want to decide on them at the same time, going back and forth as your design evolves. A good rule of thumb is that if at least half of your abilities are magical/physical/melee/ranged, those points in the corresponding Ability are definitely well-spent. Otherwise the points might be better off in Might. These abilities stack, but not to an absurd degree, so over or underspecialize as much as you want, as much as your character should. Everything trades off nicely.
- Morale abilities are extra-rad because you can put all the flags in question (Taunt/Psych/Chip/Cheer) on Free attacks. However, it is notably difficult to Morale KO someone; it pretty much takes determined effort from the beginning of the fight. If it's your plan for the day, make it your plan for the day -- that's pretty much how it is in the shows. (Here's looking at you, Touga Kiryuu, or our favorite Morale-specialist protagonist example, Princess Tutu.) That isn't to say that throwing in the occasional Psych or Quip or Taunt or Cheer is inappropriate, just that if you're specifically trying to win by getting an opponent to -100 Morale, it will take investment of energy throughout the fight. You don't have to have Morale Abilities to get someone Morale KOed, but they make it a whole lot easier. If you're someone who specifically wins with head games, we made these abilities for you.
- The 'other abilities' are an odd bunch, which is why they're filed under 'other'.
- Team Player is cool but only if you have permanent, TEAM-flagged, attacks, which basically require you to have a real team. There's nothing stopping people who mostly go it solo from using the +combo command to make incredibly awesome combinations, but Team Player's not really useful for them.
- Guardian is handy but hardly necessary for everyone; +cover is designed for Magical Girl self-sacrifice, in the sense that it's most effective when your ally is in big trouble, and that in taking the hit for them, that hit is going to really matter, you aren't just going to shrug it off. That's what makes the sacrifice meaningful! So most people won't really need nor should they really have Guardian; it's mostly for people with really big (mostly literal) shields, force fields, etc, who routinely block as a huge part of their character's powerset and playstyle. Even if you've invested in Guardian, you'll want to follow the +cover rules, which are basically 'you shouldn't be doing it constantly and thus ruining someone else's attempt to ever be able to target anyone but you'. There are no World of Warcraft tanks MG, not even the force fielders, and so they aren't supported in our system, either.
- Signature Attacks (which can only be bought with Master Trait Points) are the only way to get a Special on your Base Mode, but you also get that attack in all your other modes. That's why it costs 10 points; it's not a bad deal even for someone with just Rei Hino and Sailor Mars forms, and it becomes a great deal once she picks up Super Sailor Mars and/or Princess Mars. That being said, not everyone needs or should have one -- Signature Attacks are useful after you've transformed, but they're really designed to represent those especially great things one does when you can't transform, like tossing ofuda.
- Improvisationalist's best use is for Area Free attacks. (PRECURE DAIBAKUHATSU!) Other than that, you'll usually have enough Free Attack points to go around when you're building your Frees. That said, Area Frees can be amazing. Have fun!
- Power of Darkness is pretty much antagonist-only, since if you're a PoD protag, you'd never suffer the drawback (which is getting owned by Purify and Banish-style attacks, which are basically only ever used by protagonists on bad guys).
MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON... SPIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRAAAAAAAL... HEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAART... AAAATTAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!
Building attacks is almost as delicate a process -- and more of a job -- than doing your stats and abilities. Coming up with attack names and concepts is almost the most important part.
- Keep in mind that attacks don't just have to be punches and kicks and swords and lovebeams. They can be tactics -- like a riposte, or a distraction. They can also be, essentially, emotional in nature; Fatigue is our 'health' bar for good reason, and sticks and stones aside, nothing has more power in Magical Girl than words of love and justice. They can also be both. The Morale flags (Taunt/Cheer/Quip/Psych) are in no way required nor expected to go only on Power Level 0 attacks. Talking is a free action, you can try to reach out between hearts and minds, and smack them, at the same time. If you have a damaging attack with a Morale flag, then either you're quipping/etc while you kick someone's butt, perfectly common to an action scene in any genre, or you're literally exhausting to listen to as you go on.
- PL 1-2 attacks are amazing. Let's say it again, because nobody ever believes it the first time: PL 1-2 attacks are amazing. You will want to use them a lot; most of the time, until Finishers start coming out. You will want to not only have Specials of PL 3-5. It is not uncommon to have a good build without any PL 4-5 Specials at all; they're prohibitively expensive, and their best use is if you know you aren't going to be able to pop off a Finisher in time and want to try to end the fight by doing a lot of damage quickly an alternative way. It is helpful to remember that PL 3 attacks are described as on the order of dropping a building on someone's head. For more information, please see: Attacks
- PL 0 attacks are mostly for regaining mana after you've spent too much doing other things, but there are plenty of flavor reasons to have PL 0 attacks as well.
- Free attacks are great -- you should be making and using them on the fly -- but they have a limited selection of Flags. That makes Specials and Finishers a good place to use the restricted flags, though there's nothing remotely wrong with putting a Free flag on one if it's appropriate; the reaction penalizers in particular are very common on all kinds of attacks. For more information, please see: Free Attacks
- Finishing Attacks are, by their nature, designed to KO someone, almost universally with Fatigue damage. It is therefore not optimal to attach a debuff to a Finishing Attack, because that assumes the fight will continue, and you don't really want to use your Finisher until you think you can actually win with it -- because otherwise your opponent will use their newly accessible Survival Finisher right back! If you want a Finisher that finishes with Morale, make sure it has the Quip flag (though it won't do any extra damage to Morale, just because it's a Finisher). If you want a Finisher that finishes with Mana (pretty rare, usually villains), you're looking for the Energy Drain flag. For more information, please see: Finishing Attacks
- Spend all of your attack points on each Special and Finisher. Use the Efficient flags, plus either of the Rush or Charge flags, to fill the gap. We don't approve underpoint Specials and Finishers, just to save people from their own mistakes; the game is not designed to support them. Frees are underpoint often; don't worry about it, that's by design. For more information, please see: Attack Flags
- Don't sweat too much about whether an attack should be Physical or Magical if it isn't obvious (presumably because they're kinda both); pick whatever feels more appropriate to the attack. Ranged and Melee are usually a bit more obvious, but similarly, just go with tone and feel.
- The reason to have a mix of Physical and Magical attacks is to punish someone who's good at Bracing one but not the other. The reason to have a mix of Ranged and Melee attacks to be able to use Counterattacks against a variety of incoming attacks (and to stop people from Countering, if you're fighting a Melee specialist who for whatever reason only has Melee attacks).
- The Barrier flag exists to help a Ranged attack also be able to Counter Melee attacks, or vice versa. The Interrupt flag changes any possibility of doing damage (or applying debuffs) for better damage reduction. These can only be Specials (or rather bizarre and probably ill-conceived Finishers, especially in the case of Interrupt), so if you want to spend mana to represent a really good Force Field or energy-bouncing sword, this is the place and time. For more information, please see: Counter
- Analyze is for Sailor Mercury's supercomputer visor, but there are many other alternate justifications. One favorite of the staff's is 'Homura Akemi puts Analyze on an attack called 'Temporal Insights' to represent that she lost a fight to her target in a previous timeline, but learned something for the next loop around; then she and this person can discuss for two minutes that that might have been like and maybe she can drop a paragraph in her pose about it.'
- Combat is designed to be about six rounds long. It is not really designed for everyone to buff in the first round. Buffing someone (yourself or others) is not a gigantic tactical error, but neither is it the sort of essentially mandatory, expected first round of combat as it is in many other games. The reason buffs were de-emphasized, for the curious, is because standing around buffing is a lot less interactive between characters -- especially when they're buffing themselves, which is quite common in combat systems -- than epic swordfights and blast battles.
- Debuffs (the longer-term, lesser, and shorter-term, harsher ones) stack, if you can make it work; enjoy trying to make it work, once you realize someone's a Dodger and want to mess with them tactically. It's fun.
- It's illegal to use any combination of reaction penalizing flags that punish all three reactions. That means if you use something like Defense Breaking (which punishes Brace and Counter), if you have any other reaction penalizing flags on there, they can't punish Dodge in any way. We will ask you to revise such attacks if you make a mistake; it's an easy one to make, so no worries, but it won't make the cut.
- Some people may notice that there is no Healing flag or other ability to heal Fatigue. (Cheer, Psych and Morale, plus PL 0 Attacks and Mana, of course, comprise their own ball game.) Why not? Despite magical healing being essentially omnipresent in the magical girl genre, it's very hard to find examples of in-combat healing. It generally happens immediately before or immediately afterwards, if it's a called ability; often it happens almost automatically as a plot device, wounds vanishing in the afterglow of a holy Finishing Attack. Either way: not worth representing in an already very complex combat system, so it didn't make the cut.
- If combat is dragging because people have all used Finishers but nobody's down, the +check command is a quick and easy way to just draw the combat portion of a scene to a close.
- Most importantly, don't forget to have fun with this. This system has a great deal of mechanical and tactical nuance to mine for people who are into that kind of thing, but its major triumph is having mechanics and tactics all designed around celebrating the tone and feel of magical girl combat. Enjoy yourself, whether you make attacks that represent summoning a giant pile of goopy, sweet cake batter to stick an enemy to the floor, or dramatic final blows with the business end of your spiritual and magical sword.
Special thanks to Alice and Trish of Persona MUSH for this guide!